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Keeping your healthy habits on track during the holidays doesn’t have to be hard. From Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve, many of us feel pressured to celebrate the season by going “all out,” then dramatically reverse course come January to undo the “damage”.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a few simple strategies, you can enjoy your favorite festive indulgences while staying on track with your health goals, all season long.

Prime Your Immune System

Unfortunately, the festive season coincides with peak cold and flu season. The risk of coming down with something that sends you to the sidelines grows with every gathering. For that reason, it's more important than ever to bolster your immune system this time of year.

Loading up on colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds is one of the best ways to shore up your defenses naturally with immunity-boosting nutrients. It's also important to stay hydrated and keep active, and don't skimp on sleep.

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Stave Off Stress

‘Tis the season of high expectations, and all this pressure for Pinterest-worthy perfection can send stress levels through the roof. Instead of driving yourself crazy trying to make Christmas feel like a Hallmark special, aim for a “good enough” holiday season.

Keep your expectations realistic and know your own limits. Give yourself permission to choose what works for you and what doesn’t. You don’t have to attend every event on your calendar if it means sacrificing your sanity. Everyone needs a little downtime to maintain a healthy mindset, especially this time of year.

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Skip the Shame

Caving into your cravings on more than one occasion doesn’t mean you have to throw all of your healthy habits out the window until January. Remember that gaining tons of weight over the holidays is mostly a myth.

If the food of the season is one of the high points for you, eat the delicious treats. If, on the other hand, overeating is a trigger for you, choose to be more mindful about it and skip the tummy aches. The first option isn't going to derail all your hard health work over the past year, but eating lots just to appease grandma isn't worth the anxiety it might cause you, either. You do you, this season!

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Indulge With Intention

Instead of mindless munching, take the time to savor those special snacks you only enjoy this time of year. Divide delicious dishes into portion sizes you want to consume in one sitting, and save the rest for later. This will allow you to slow down and enjoy your favorite treat over a few days rather than finishing it all at once—and avoid the stomach pains that often accompany it.

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Drink Responsibly

Maintaining your health over the holidays doesn’t mean you have to abstain from your favorite boozy beverages. As long as you eat, drink and be merry in moderation, you’ll stay on track with your goals.

Alternate every alcoholic drink with a glass of water to slow down your consumption and help prevent dehydration, which can lead to worse hangover symptoms. More importantly, if you're going to drink, don't drive!

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Don't Ignore Your Gut

Gut health is more essential than most people realize to overall wellness. 70% of the immune system is located in the gut microbiome.

Before you fill up on heavy holiday fare, give your digestive system a leg up with probiotic supplements or foods rich in gut-friendly live bacteria, like yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut. Don’t forget to eat fiber-rich fruits and veggies and drink plenty of water to keep things moving.

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Fit In Some Merry Movement

When time is short and to-do lists are a mile long, regular workouts are often first to fall by the wayside. Instead of beating yourself up over missing your scheduled sweat sesh, incorporate exercise into your daily routine instead. If the weather isn’t too frightful, take a brisk walk after a big meal. Snow-where to go? Now’s the time to bundle up and slip on those snowshoes.

Staying in? Get a move on in the comfort of your own home with Christmas-themed workout playlists. Just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day will help you maintain your fitness levels and keep Christmas stress in check.

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Slow Down Your Spending

Thanks to rampant commercialism guilting us into outdoing ourselves with the perfect presents, the most wonderful time of the year also tends to be the most expensive. When digging your credit card out yet again starts to get you down, which leads to resentment, which eventually turns to regret once the bill comes in.

Focus on making memories with loved ones for free instead of blowing your budget on Black Friday impulse buys that will likely be forgotten by February. If gifts are a must, consider consumables or experiences rather than more "stuff."

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Make Your Home a Judgment-Free Zone

Tense interpersonal relationships are a huge source of holiday stress. The key to harmony is to accept and respect your own choices—and those of others. Don’t judge or question other people’s concerns, whether it’s about their personal health decisions, their spending, their eating habits, or anything else.

Keep an open heart and an open mind this holiday season, and more often than not, you’ll find that people will open up their hearts and minds to you.

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Get some sleep!

This month-long marathon of last-minute to-do lists and late-night get-togethers can wreak havoc on anyone’s sleep cycle. A shortage of high-quality shut-eye not only weakens the immune system, but it can ramp up cravings for the high-sugar, empty-calorie comfort foods that are plentiful this time of year.

Make sure you’re squeezing in seven to nine hours of beauty sleep most nights to maintain a healthy balance.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.